Far from ideal. Photo: Flickr/Lee
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Women urinating on the street in the small hours: the mark of a Britain in crisis, or the ultimate bonding experience?

Bond-forming though it may be, weeing in public is not ideal for women. And even Scandinavians haven't found the solution.

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk of “safe spaces” in feminist circles. Frankly, the only safe space I’m interested in right now is one in which women can take long, beery slashes at 3am.

“Where do Swedish women piss at night?” is a phrase that’s now tattooed onto my Google search history until the end of days. The story of how it got there is one of sorrow, toil and public urination.

It’s puke o’clock in the West End. Piccadilly Circus is a wilted salad of the world’s least imaginative tourists and the world’s most depressing street performers, at the best of times. At around 2am on a Saturday night it makes this seamless transition from “just plain crap” to “Boschian Hellscape”. I’d know because, pretty much wherever in London I go out, this is where I’ll end up waiting for the night bus back to the south-west.

Usually, at this point in the evening, I need a wee. On this particular occasion, I really need a wee. I’m doing the dance. My bladder is writing an all-caps email to social services. A “code yellow” klaxon is ringing in my ears. Previously I’d probably sprinted three times in my life. One of them involved getting to the buffet at a Jewish wedding. This time, the fourth perhaps, I’m legging it towards McDonald’s on Shaftsbury Avenue. McDonald’s, the safe haven of late-night piss-needers. And, at this point, the golden arches are more beautiful to me than the sun rising behind Beyoncé riding a snow leopard through an alpine meadow. Until, that is, I get to the door and a couple of knackered looking employees are locking up.

At an inhuman speed, I scope out nearby pissing spots. One otherwise-empty side street contains a passed-out suited man in a doorway, a twinkling puddle of sick at his feet. Can I wee in front of, albeit comatose, puke-man? I probably shouldn’t. I make my way towards the Eros statue, under which a group of Italian teenagers are piling thundering accolades on their comrade who had both the wit and the gall to put a traffic cone on his head.

I need inspiration. Fast. In the gutter, I spot a discarded pint glass. Suddenly I’m a genius. I’m Marie Curie, I’m Ada Lovelace; I’m the cleverest bitch alive. I grab the glass and make a dash down Piccadilly and hunt down the emptiest side street. I find one sparsely dotted with tired drunks. This will do. Luckily, I’m wearing a skirt. I lift the pint glass to my crotch and, with what I thought was an impressive level of discreetness, pull my knickers to one side. I begin to piss. Boy do I piss. In fact, I piss more than a pint. I’m not Curie. I’m not Lovelace. I’m an adult woman standing in her own piss. I’m a disaster.

So back to “Where do Swedish women piss at night?” For women, emptying your bladder in the wee (ha) hours is usually an ordeal. Unequipped with a “the world is my fucking urinal” gammon hose, we usually rely on our friends to form a modesty circle around us while we take a fumbling slash. When we piss down alleys together and watch our glistening urine trails cross paths, we cement friendships. Welcome to the sisterhood.

Bond-forming as it may be, using your friends as human shields while you whip out your minge in public is far from ideal. It occurs to me that the Scandinavians, of all people, must have an answer to this. You can always rely on those Scands to be socially progressive and design savvy. Surely they must have invented some kind of sculpture-like all-night public toilet, where women can wee in peace. Surely.

As you can probably imagine, my Google search was unfruitful. I still don’t know where Swedish women piss at night. But, wherever it is, I bet it’s lovely.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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